Depression taking over my life

OK, so I clearly haven’t been on here for awhile.  I have been busy, true, but I wouldn’t be completely honest with you if I didn’t admit that I have been having quite some time keeping the negativity at bay.  There have been a few days-long stretches where I could barely get out of bed.  And I blame myself and heap oodles of self-hatred my way, saying that I should try harder and that I need to ignore my feelings and just be there for my children and my husband.  I feel guilty and awful most of the time, paired with debilitating anxiety.  Hubby, although he tries extremely hard to be understanding and supportive, is understandably frustrated and overwhelmed with dealing with our crazy household (the kids don’t stop) as well as a spouse who wants to check out most of the time.

I don’t exactly know what set it off.  I am feeling overwhelmed with the task of housekeeping and motherhood right now.  I am tired of barely keeping up with the mess and the needs of five other creatures (eight, if you include the pets).  I am exhausted with not being enough.  I crave the delicious feeling of accomplishment – of feeling pride in a job well-done and the satisfaction of being competent at a task.  Motherhood doesn’t offer this emotion….not really, anyhow.  The task of raising a child is never done.  Even when they are adults – they could screw up badly and, as a parent, you will always wonder if that failure of theirs is somehow tied to your failure to feed them organic meat.

When I was younger, unmarried and childless, I was an organizational freak.  I loved having everything neat and tidy, everything in its place.  I thrived on making my space beautiful and having my decor reflect who I was and what I loved.  I think that is why, now that I am part of a household with young children, I become so discouraged with the state of my surroundings.  These surroundings are messy.  They are dirty.  They are disorderly.  They are ugly.  I could spend every second following my children around, yelling at them to pick up, to not take that out, to leave my stuff alone, but that would still probably not achieve my desired goal: to have a beautiful and orderly and calm place to call home 24/7.

Readers will argue that having a home-design-magazine-worthy home is a silly goal while being a SAHM to youngin’s – that they are only young once, and energy and time should be spent playing with them instead of worrying about the amount of mess they make.  I would agree.  But perfectionism and depression are filled with a font of irrational thoughts that don’t make sense and obsessively spin around in your mind making you feel that there really is no point and you might as well give up.

So, this last month I really have.  I have dropped the ball on housework, I have let the kids watch day-long marathons of Netflix, and I have essentially checked out.  Occasionally I have been able to summon enough gumption to cook dinner or do laundry.  I still run the kids to lessons and play-dates and if any of my friends ask I am doing JUST FINE.  But I am locked in a gloom that is very difficult to shake.

We took a family vacation last week and I was able to get outside of myself and just be for a few days, which was nice.  But coming back home was hard, getting back to real life was hard.

I go through something with my medication every two years or so where the normal dosage suddenly just doesn’t cut it anymore.  So I am starting a supplemental medication along with my normal prescription.  I am hoping that there is an improvement.  Generally, I have always felt that before the positive thinking and self-care suggestions my doctor and psychologist have suggested can kick in, there needs to be a biological “jump start” in the form of drugs in order to to be able to move forward.  And I feel like the current dosage is no longer cutting it.  I worry that by the time I am 60 I will be taking such an inordinately large dosage of psychotropic prescription drugs that I will no longer, chemically, be me.  Or that after so many years of taking antidepressants my brain will be severely damaged or I will develop a giant, inoperable tumor thanks to the miracle drugs that have gotten me out of bed and into the land of the living for 40 years.  But I suppose it will have been worth it.  Not living under a constant, debilitating cloud of depression is worth it.  I think.

So that’s what has been going on.  I am hoping to check in more often going forward.  I am hoping I will have happier, more sunny things to write about next time.  I know I will be fine, the sky is not falling, and life is actually beautiful.  I know all of that.  I just need a little help (and prayers) getting to the point where I can really feel it, too.

Thanks.

The purpose of a bad day

Not often, but occasionally, I have days that hit me with the enormity of the fear that maybe, just maybe, all my struggles and triumphs and day-to-day banalities are all for naught.  That it doesn’t really matter if I live this day well, or try a little harder to get that task done, or remember to curb my tongue of the petty criticisms that may make my daughter cry.  Why would it matter, if life is indeed pointless, whether I were a good mother to my children, faithful and loving to my spouse, or tried to be a good neighbor to my fellow man?  What would be the point, even, of getting out of bed?

I have a tendency to be over-sensitive to other people’s moods and attitudes, and today was a poster day for that.  My mother, meaning well, sent me a light-hearted text about how she just saw the State Department had issued a travel warning for Europe, citing terrorist fears.  She knows that I have been beginning to plan for a trip to Europe with friends in 2017, and she knows I am excited and have been furtively sneaking away from my kids to Google search hotels and tourist sites in anticipation of this journey.  So while I appreciate her concern (and, really, do I think the threat of terrorism anywhere will decrease in the next decade or so?) I didn’t see how this benign text added anything of a positive nature to my day.  In fact, it sort-of depressed me.  Yes, it is true.  Yes, it is scary.  But…why share it with me?  Was her goal to scare me?  Or to let me know she was worried for my safety in some way?  Whatever her intent, the text irritated and depressed me.  It seemed almost a subtle way of saying, “I know you have this fun plan for your life, but guess what? It is raining on your parade.  Right now. You can’t win, so don’t even try.

I got through the rest of my crazy day with the kids and karate, and came home, proud of myself for having prepared a crock-pot minestrone so we could eat right away after getting home at 6:30.  I grabbed the mail and saw that some travel guides I requested had arrived; we want to go to the West coast this summer for vacation.  Excited about that, I mentioned it to Hubby, who I instantly realized had arrived home under a cloud of crabbiness.  He said, “I don’t even want to talk about vacations.  The new company [who is taking over operations at Hubby’s work tomorrow] sounds like it wants to get rid of our division/make everyone move to somewhere horrible if they want to keep their jobs/fire me/make me take a huge pay cut and work 1,000 hours of unpaid overtime.”  Instantly, my mood switches to OMIGOD WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO MOVE AND THE KIDS CAN’T GO THROUGH THAT AGAIN AND I DON’T WANT TO MOVE AND MAYBE WE WILL BE BROKE AND HAVE TO FORECLOSE ON OUR HOUSE AND DECLARE BANKRUPTCY AND I AM NOT QUALIFIED TO WORK ANYWHERE BECAUSE ALTHOUGH I HAVE A DEGREE I HAVE NEVER HELD A REAL JOB AND EVERYTHING I HAVE DONE THIS LAST NINE YEARS WILL HAVE BEEN FOR NOTHING BECAUSE STAY-AT-HOME MOMS ARE NOT VALUABLE IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS AND THIS CROCKPOT MINESTRONE I MADE FOR DINNER IS ABSOLUTELY AWFUL I AM A HORRIBLE HOUSEWIFE.

It really should be said that Hubby and I got very little sleep last night because Spike, who is recovering from a horrendous sunburn, couldn’t sleep and came down into our bed last night.  And then, that adorable 3-year-old proceeded to have a horrible day of “three-nager”ness (which Hubby defined as, “Spike’s feet woke up on the wrong side of my back this morning.”) which was such fun.

Ok.  No sleep.  No sleep makes you feel like life.  Is not worth.  Living.  Seriously.

Anxiety can be caused by little to no sleep.  Anxiety makes you fear things that are…mayyyybe real possibilities…but very slim chances.  Like terrorists targeting you on vacation.  And anxieties relating to job loss and perpetual poverty.  And freaking out over the fact that you might not be a perfect wife and mother.

Hubby is nervous about the new company taking over.  That is completely understandable.  New management, new way of doing things, new corporate culture.  But perhaps we should focus on what we can control.  We can’t control if our boss decides to downsize us.  We can’t control if the company wants to headquarter elsewhere.  We have no control over what the future ultimately holds.  We really don’t.  It’s honestly terrifying.

I seek solace in the knowledge that about four years ago, we were in the same place.  Spike was on the way, Hubby was laid off, we had no permanent dwelling, and Hubby and I were both scared to death.  I prayed.  I prayed without ceasing.  I was so afraid of so many things, and God said “Trust.”

Trust.

Trust that I have your future in my hands.  Trust that I know exactly what you need, and will not give you more than you can handle.  Trust that I love you and I will not let you falter.

Be not afraid.  Be not afraid.  I am with you and will never leave you. 

I can believe.  I can believe God is in control.  I can believe that he will be beside me in whatever I may encounter.  I can believe there is a purpose and a reason to everything.  When I doubt, when I want to run the other way, God is there to remind me that His will pervades all.  His love conquers all.  And his purpose for our lives permeates and engulfs us all.  So it is not for nothing that we struggle with [yes, the banalities of laundry and stinky diapers] our tasks and it is not for nothing that we strive for Heaven in our lives.  It is what makes life worth living…it is what makes life so precious…and it is what we will not abandon when we are forced to abandon our dreams for anything else.  It is through trust in His plan that we can forge ahead with all we may encounter….even on a bad day:-)

 

 

 

 

 

Mama said there’d be days like this

StateLibQld 2 164099 Derailed goods train at Eudlo, 1914

photo: Wikimedia Commons

There’s something to be said about days when you wake up to kids fighting, a baby screaming, juice spilled on the floor, a splitting headache and a husband who is MIA. (What?  He went to church by himself to commune with God sans children…I pretty much want to be him right now).  And that word is  POOPY.

As in poopy diapers that need changing, seemingly constantly.  A teething little one who won’t stop crying in a decibal that is about five degrees short of making my ears bleed.  A house that looks like a hurricane visited – and this only five minutes after I completely cleaned and tidied yesterday.  A toddler crying inconsolably because his big brother won’t let him play with his Hex Bugs and Santa was mean and didn’t “bring me my own Hex Bugs!!!!” Plus a shoulder that has been in moderate-to-severe pain ever since I wrenched it carrying a 357-lb infant carseat around following the birth of my youngest.

Needless to say, not shaping up to be a stellar day.

Can this day be saved?

Generally, at this point, I start snowballing down the spiral of “woe is me” and “my life sucks” and “maybe I should just crawl back in bed with a bowl of ice cream”.  It is really tempting.  Particularly when my chosen vocation is vastly thankless, undignified, and fraught with tedium and noise.  What is the point of cleaning the house if it is just going to fall into disarray again?  What use, wiping that bottom, when it will need wiping again in an hour? (my kids like prunes)  Why should I even attempt to take a shower if two three four of my children bang on the door and cry the entire time because I have left them bereft for the five minutes I can hasily loofah myself?

The truth is, (as Hubby so  kindly reminded me) no job, no vocation, is without its repetition, occasionally monotony, and frustrations.  The janitor at Walmart is never “done” with his job.  He cleans the restrooms, and a few hours later, he needs to clean the restrooms again.  The teacher at my children’s school faces challenges during the day, and her job is definitely never complete.  That ER doctor, I’m sure, in between rushing around saving lives, needs to fill out boring paperwork that is probably no fun and not very rewarding.

It’s helpful to know that everyone has days like this.  The difference between the “woe is me” Rebecca and the “I can keep going” Rebecca is attitude.  Or, in the very least (if I aI cannot summon positive thoughts) to FAKE IT TIL I MAKE IT.  This little mantra has helped me out on more bad days than I can count.

I pretend I am in a positive mindset and eventually I really do feel more positive.  It’s kind-of like that dumb(I thought) tip I read in a teen magazine years ago.  Even if you are not happy, smile – and that will trick your brain into thinking that you are.  The weird thing is, there is some truth to it.

My other “Get out of a bad mood quick” hacks are:

1.) Stop what I am doing and sit down with a good book.  It seems kinda counterintuitive, but when  I am frustrated with the futility of getting housework done with little tornadoes underfoot, taking a book break can give my mind a rest and energize me to get more work done afterwards.

2) Put on my ear-buds and turn up some tunes. This is especially effective to tune out the fighting, crying, and demands from the kiddos.  Make sure you perfect your “What?  I can’t hear you!?” face.

3) Watch a 22-minute show on Netflix that inspires.  My go-to show right now is Fixer Upper.  I don’t know why, but I find Chip & JoAnna Gaines really upbeat, and I get super-motivated to beautiful my house afterwards.

4) Tackle a project that I can finish.  I never realized how effective this one was, until I read Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home.  She says that motivation leads to more motivation and the quickest way to get motivated about getting things done is to complete something. I think so many times in our lives, we moms get used to being interrupted.  Ergo, finishing projects, activities, movies, chores, etc is often a rarity.  I am actually surprised sometimes I ever finish cooking dinner.  But coming up with something that I can tackle and finish (the finishing is the important part) in the space of a certain amount of time is inspiring and encourages me to keep going, or at least move forward with a more productive mindset.  I have 5 minutes while the kids are distracted with something shiny!  I can match socks from the lost sock bucket.  30 minutes left of naptime?  I can do a marathon tidy of the downstairs living room while plying the older kids with candy to stay out until I am done.

5) Sometimes, the one that is the most effective is just to stop whatever I am doing, or attempting to do and SIT DOWN WITH MY KIDS. I often feel like my days are only as valuable as the number of things I can check off my “To Do” list.  I view my kids as distractions, interruptions, inconveniences to my great master goal of “Getting Things Done”.  Uh, hello?  They are the reason I have to get things done, not the distraction from it!  It can be easy to forget when you are tired, or overwhelmed, or sick of listening to kids yell at one another.  (I adore this article from Danielle Bean, which perfectly highlights the struggle and response I strive to have.) But often, I have found that my kids can sense when I am trying to put my mental and physical energy elsewhere and actually act out to try and get some of that energy back to them.  And it can be more effective in the long run to take some time out to sit down with them and play, or talk, or just be present for a few minutes instead of worrying about the laundry and the dishes and dinner and the bills and the ants that have invaded Junior’s room because he squirreled away crackers under his bed.  Sometimes a cuddle is all that is needed to rejuvenate a day gone sour for Momma and cubs.

I am a firm believer in redemption.  Redemption for human beings (no man is beyond it) and redemption for days (no day is beyond it).  This train got derailed pretty early this morning but it is not too late to drag it back onto the tracks and turn it around.  But I might go back to the cafe car and grab a bowl of ice cream just in case. ♥